Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors Chair Hilda L. Solis has become the new Chair of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board of Directors effective July 1. She succeeds outgoing Board Chair and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, whose term ended June 30.
Chair Solis, who proudly represents the County’s First Supervisorial District that extends from Westlake to Pomona and from Eagle Rock to South Gate, said she intends to focus her attention as chair on three priorities in the coming year: supporting Metro’s transit riders, driving an equitable recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic, and reimagining the agency’s highway investments.
Chair Solis said in her efforts to support transit riders, she will advocate for the region’s most disadvantaged communities.
“As congestion worsens and more people gain access to cars, bus riders, particularly among Black and Latinx communities, suffer the most,” said Chair Solis. “Bus riders — who have median annual incomes of less than $18,000 — comprise some of the most disadvantaged communities in LA County that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. Transit riders need better service, and they need it now. To provide better service, Metro needs to invest more funding in operations, homelessness outreach, and alternatives to law enforcement.”
Chair Solis reported that over the last three decades Southern California has seen a surge in vehicle ownership, with figures increasing from 0.25 vehicles per new resident between 1990 and 2000 to almost 1.0 vehicle per new resident at the end of 2015.
“When buses are stuck in traffic, travel times increase, and reliability worsens. It’s not surprising that Metro’s bus ridership has declined year over year,” she said.
Chair Solis also expressed a need for more affordable housing to serve transit riders and to prevent further displacement among low-income and vulnerable communities.
“With a housing crisis that makes it challenging to live in Los Angeles County, transportation serves as a critical tool in helping residents get around. And as housing becomes more expensive, commutes are becoming longer and more arduous. Metro must use the land that it will acquire as part of upcoming capital projects to quickly build more affordable housing to help prevent future displacement and to better serve our most vulnerable transit riders,” she said.
In promoting an equitable recovery, Chair Solis said she is committed to driving solutions that will help low-income communities and small businesses spring back from the pandemic. She said more than 15,000 small businesses throughout the County have closed, and hard-hit industries like hospitality and retail, which employ hundreds of thousands of Black and Latinx workers, will be particularly challenged to rebound easily from the pandemic.
“Low-income communities and small businesses have taken the brunt of the economic impact caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Chair Solis said. “With an $8 billion annual budget, Metro has the resources to revive the economy with a focus on equity-based solutions. Metro can advance an equitable recovery for LA County by creating well-paying jobs targeted toward under-served communities, developing new pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs, engaging more women in construction trades, expanding programs to support small businesses near Metro transit lines, and leveraging the return of the federal local hire pilot program.”
In reimagining Metro’s Highway Program, Chair Solis said traditional highway widening projects often bring displacement and pollution to neighborhoods that are already overburdened with housing insecurity and health disparities.
“For decades, Metro and other agencies across the United States have built freeway projects at the expense of communities of color. We cannot continue repeating mistakes of the past and worsening structural inequities. Metro must begin exploring the impacts of its highway investments and partner with communities to identify mobility solutions that work for everyone whether they walk, bike, roll, drive, or take transit.”
Chair Solis’ leadership on the Metro Board coincides with the recent appointment of Stephanie Wiggins as Metro’s new CEO, marking the first time in Metro’s 28-year history that both the Board Chair and CEO are simultaneously led by women, a new agency milestone.
The 13-member Metro Board of Directors is comprised of the five Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, four members appointed by the Los Angeles County City Selection Committee, the Mayor of Los Angeles and three members appointed by the Mayor. The position of Board Chair rotates between the three groups. Chair Solis’s term will run from July 1, 2021, through June 30, 2022.
“Supervisor Solis has been a champion of public transportation, equity, and inclusion throughout her career,” said Metro CEO Stephanie Wiggins. “She is a trailblazer on the forefront of LA County’s efforts to advance equity and diversity initiatives across the region. I am thrilled to work with her in the coming year as we spearhead innovative ways to support Metro’s transit riders and advance an equitable recovery for LA County.”
For more information about Metro’s Board of Directors, please visit https://www.metro.net/about/board-administration/.
“I have worked closely with Supervisor Solis on both the Metro and Metrolink Boards for years. She has been a pleasure to work with in our collective efforts to provide greater transportation options for both Los Angeles County and the greater Southern California region,” said Ara Najarian, Glendale City Council Member and First Vice Chair of the Metro Board. “Hilda is especially dedicated to protecting the environment and improving the lives of working families. I know that experience will serve her well as she leads Metro out of the pandemic and toward implementing Metro’s immediate goals for improving the transit experience for its customers.”
“As new Board Chair, Hilda Solis will provide Metro with the important leadership it needs at this critical juncture where equity, justice and economic vibrancy are so critical to our future,” said Metro Second Vice Chair Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker. “Her equity-based priorities and unique ability to open doors for those who have been shut out will enable Metro to leap forward in its goal to help return opportunity to our region. She clearly has a passion to represent people equally, and it has benefitted not only her constituents, but all the residents of Los Angeles County.”
The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) is currently providing lifeline service for essential trips and frontline workers. Metro continues building the most ambitious transportation infrastructure program in the United States and is working to greatly improve mobility through its Vision 2028 Plan.